Dental health is one of the most overlooked aspects of our health, even in our modern age where we have so much data and information available to us. The foods and beverages we consume have an effect on our bodies and our health before they even get to our stomachs. The different compositions of foods have a vast array of effects on our oral hygiene, particularly our enamel and gum health. Some foods are worse for your teeth than others, and don’t even get us started on the fizzy drinks! While avoiding many of these foods and beverages would be optimal for health, we know that’s not really feasible. But knowing how these acidic compounds affect your teeth, and how to combat their effects, can make the difference in your oral hygiene.
What Does Acid Do to Your Teeth?
Much like acid’s effects on anything else in the world, acidic foods and drinks can erode your tooth enamel (and even affect your gut health). When the acidic substance is left on the teeth, which is most prevalent from drinks like soda, the bacteria in your mouth react with this substance. The result is lactic acid, which if left on your teeth enamel, will begin to erode away at the enamel and cause damage over time to your teeth.
There are other factors that determine the severity of the reaction and subsequent damage to your teeth. In general, tooth enamel can begin to erode when the pH level drops to just 4.0 (for reference, water sits around a pH level of 7.0). The more acidic (or the lower the pH level) of a food or drink, the faster your teeth will drop to the level of erosion. As the pH level drops, depending on the food or drink, other issues can arise.
The worst culprit when it comes to acidic food is candy, specifically: sour candy. You can taste the acidity in these candies, since that is the whole point of them, but they can be extremely bad for your teeth, especially if you eat a lot of them. Then there are the extremely sour candies that make your face pucker, but these candies have such a low pH level that some of them can cause other damage like burns to the inside of your mouth, or even your gums.
Candy isn’t the only acidic food, and just because a particular food is considered healthy doesn’t mean you are safe from the effects of pH levels. Fruits, mainly the citric fruits, can be pretty high in acidity. These include lemons, oranges, limes, and even apples. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of ways to take preventative measures to protect your tooth enamel that we will get to later.
If we mention acidic drinks, is soda the first thing to come to mind? In combination with sour candies, soda could very well be attributed to the ever increasing need for more dental professionals. When it comes to acidic food or drink, sodas and energy drinks are probably some of the worst things you can consume (not to mention they’re bad in nearly every way for your overall health). On average, the pH level of soda is 2.5 to 3.5. Remember what we mentioned earlier about the pH threshold before tooth enamel begins to erode? Hint: it’s a pH level of 4. Battery acid typically has a pH level of 1!
Of course, sodas aren’t the only culprit when it comes to acidic drinks. Other drinks include fruit juice since these are typically made with citric fruits. Even if the label says that it is 100% fruit juice or sugar-free, these fruits juices still contain a considerable amount of acid depending on which fruit it is.
Ways To Protect Your Teeth From Acidic Foods and Drinks
It’s important to note that consuming some fizzy drinks and sour candy isn’t the end of the world. Your teeth aren’t going to suddenly start falling out just because you drank a couple of sodas. However, long-term consumption of acidic food and drinks will lead to tooth erosion, and it can turn severe if you aren’t taking proper precautions with your dental hygiene. Here are some great tricks to reduce the effect acid has on your teeth:
- Don’t brush your teeth immediately after consuming something acidic. Wait about an hour before brushing so that your saliva has a chance to naturally wash away some of that acid.
- If you have a meal that has acidic foods, eat some sour candy, or drink a soda, you can also rinse your mouth with water immediately after.
- Dairy products are rich in calcium and help to neutralize acid, to something like milk or cheese is helpful.
- If you do like to indulge in sodas or fruit juices, you can make sure to always drink from a straw to reduce the impact of acid on your teeth.
- Regular dental cleanings and exams! Your local dentist is the perfect option to keep your teeth clean and monitor the details of your oral hygiene.
At Prosper & Smile Dental Care, we care about our patients’ oral hygiene, and our dental care doesn’t end at our office. We are dedicated to educating and helping all of our patients obtain optimal oral hygiene, so we take great care providing you with the information and knowledge you need at home, too! Schedule your next dental cleaning with Dr. Sisombath today, and ask about the best tips and tricks for at-home dental hygiene practices.